Sustainability and Resilience for Herefordshire — Engaging with the planning system at a time of rapid change and uncertainty
Herefordshire is one of the most rural and sparsely populated counties in England with a population of around 160,000, of whom 60,000 live in the city of Hereford. Land use in Herefordshire is predominantly agricultural and the county is well known for its fruit and cider production and for Hereford cattle. The county is relatively isolated from the rest of the country; because of the absence of any large industries and because of limited transport connections. This means that Herefordshire is a county with a tradition of self-reliance and with its own distinctive way of life. Nevertheless, the county has a significant national (and international) profile based on the attractions of the rich and scenic Herefordshire countryside, on the historic city of Hereford (with the world famous Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral) and on the burgeoning Hay on Wye Literary Festival.
In recent years there has been a lively debate over how the county and city should grow and develop. One school of thought has suggested that, given the relative poverty of the county and the high unemployment levels, the county should adopt an expansive strategy designed to build and develop the county’s economy by linking it more closely to the national economy. However, another school of thought has suggested that the county should adopt a quite different strategy. A strategy, which would make a virtue of the county’s relative self-sufficiency and which would concentrate on developing a successful and sustainable local economy. The debate over the future of the county has given birth to many local campaigns and groupings and it places the county at the forefront of activity around localisation and new economics.
2. A Planning Workshop
As might be expected the process of preparing a statutory plan for Herefordshire has brought to the fore arguments about what the future priorities for the county should be and about specific development proposals. Those people who wish to see ‘a sustainable and resilient’ Herefordshire feel that the work undertaken by the Herefordshire Council on its Local Development Framework and on its Core Strategy has not looked at alternative models of development nor has it fully tested local opinions.
Earlier this year discussions between Localise West Midlands and local activists led to a suggestion that LWM could organise a workshop (using the Power Up model developed by Friends of the Earth) that would seek to influence the next stage of the development planning process and which would explore how an alternative plan for the county might be advanced drawing on LWM’s work on ‘Extending Localisation’.
3. Objectives of the Workshop
The overall purpose of the workshop is to explore how local people in Herefordshire can influence and shape the statutory planning processes in Herefordshire and how they can ensure that sustainability and resilience are embedded in future plans.
The workshop would:
1) examine ways of influencing the next stage of the development planning process, taking into account likely changes in the whole planning system
(working with the Town and Country Planning Association and using lessons from Power Up)
2) explore how alternative approaches grounded in sustainability and resilience might be advanced within the current plans and in future (drawing on LWM’s work on ‘Extending Localisation’).
3) explore a new approach to planning based on neighbourhood plans for sustainability (reflecting the ‘decentralisation and localism’ and ‘big society’ agendas)
It is hoped that the workshop will inform and support work already in progress in the county and that it will provide a platform for further work. The workshop will be a ground-breaking event in at least two ways. It will seize the initiative in shaping neighbourhood planning in accordance with the proposals in the Decentralisation and Localism Bill. It will have the guidance and input of the Town and Country Planning Association and Localise West Midlands.
Beyond the workshop, LWM and the TCPA hope to influence wider thinking on how ‘ a new kind of planning and new kind of plan’ can be created as part of their work on extending localisation and on community led planning.
4. Target Audience
The workshop will be open to anyone who selects themselves as per the description above.
At the same time the people who are likely to be most interested in the event and in contributing to it, are those who are already concerned about statutory planning processes in some way – people who want to make things work better, people who want to see a strong and robust evidence base for any plans and people who want to be fully engaged in plan making.
5. Outline Programme
The outline programme is based on a two stage process:
– a one-day workshop that is designed to examine how current and future plan making will work and to consider how principles of sustainability and resilience are being reflected in the existing plan-making process;
– followed by a meeting for more interested participants the following day or week to look at how a new approach to planning based around the new neighbourhood planning process can be developed in a way that places sustainability and resilience at its heart.
– How the planning system is changing – a new kind of planning and a new kind of plan – planning localisation and localising planning.
– The Herefordshire context – the current position re the development plan and potential changes/new directions
– Working groups on understanding and questioning the planning process
– Sustainability and resilience; an overview and identification of key issues in Herefordshire
– Evaluating the current plans and the evidence base that supports them against principles of sustainability and resilience
– Discussion groups on the next steps
People attending the one-day workshop should gain knowledge and skills and together work on contributions to the Hefordshire planning process that are based on sound evidence, wellbeing and long term goals.
Follow up meeting:
A smaller meeting on the Sunday or perhaps the following week for interested participants in the workshop who want to look at new ways of going forward based on the issues raised at the workshop and on the new planning process that will be introduced. This will be confirmed in the new year.
Above all the event should aim to be both useful and purposeful. It is about delivering information and expertise but is also about local people and local interest sharing ideas and identifying opportunities.
6. Workshop Timing
The workshop will be held on 12th february 2011 at Shire Hall in Hereford.
Booking is essential as the event is proving popular and the venue has a fixed capacity.
The venue and date for the follow up meeting are yet to be confirmed, but it is hoped that this would be held on the sunday afterwards. Given recent developments it is difficult to know how exactly this will relate to the council’s processes as a potential referendum may change the final draft date for the Core Strategy for Herefordshire, but the event is well timed to learn from the proposals in the Decentralisation and Localism bill.
7. Steering Group
A steering group consists of Melodie Winch (Herefordshire Friends of the Earth), Paige Mitchell (Cycle Hereford), Kate Gathercole and Mo Burns (Hereford In Transition Alliance), with Jon Stevens and Karen Leach (Localise West Midlands) supporting and Hugh Ellis (Chief Planner of the Town & Country Planning Association) advising the group. Various other organisations met to discuss initial proposals in October and continue to input into the proposals from a wider emailing list.